Middle Easterners accused of fake marriages in INS crackdown

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Middle Easterners accused of fake marriages in INS crackdown TAMPA, Fla. -- (AP) -- Four Middle Eastern immigrants face federal charges of entering into sham marriages in attempts to gain citizenship.

The four defendants, including a pregnant woman, pleaded not guilty to the charges during a brief hearing Thursday in U.S. District Court. They have been in jail for three weeks by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The three U.S. citizens involved have not been charged.

The indictments, issued Wednesday, come as the federal government cracks down on immigration violations in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

``The attorney general has made it clear that U.S. attorneys across the country are to strictly enforce immigration laws,'' said Steve Cole, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Tampa. ``This is part of that effort to strictly enforce these laws.''

Cole said the laws apply to everyone, and that people of Middle Eastern descent have not been singled out. Authorities did not discuss how they concluded the marriages were a sham or how much money changed hands, if any.

He declined to say if authorities suspected the four of having a terrorist connection.

Those charged with entering into sham marriages are Nermine Khammash, 25, and twin brothers Nasri Al Hamdan and Montaser Hamdan Al Hamdan, 32.

Each faces one count of knowingly entering into a marriage with a U.S citizen for the purpose of evading immigration laws. If convicted, they could face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine

Mohammad Basheer Alqaryuti, 42, was charged with entering into a sham marriage and lying about it on a visa application. He faces up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

They all married in Tampa. Three had religious ceremonies; one was a civil ceremony.

Nasri Al Hamdan, in a phone interview from jail with The Tampa Tribune before the hearing, said he loved his wife. He said he was stunned when federal agents told him his wife had disavowed their marriage.

His wife, Shawanda Al Hamdan, 23, of Tampa, said in an interview that she agreed to marry him for $150 a month while he applied for citizenship.

She was 18 and unemployed at the time. They were wed in a courthouse ceremony May 15, 1997, and never lived together or dated, she said.

Nasri Al Hamdan said his brother Montaser Hamdan Al Hamdan had been dating Nermine Khammash, who also was detained. After being taken into custody, she realized she was pregnant with Montaser Hamdan Al Hamdan's baby.

-- K (infosurf@yahoo.com), November 05, 2001



Business as Usual? Appropriations Bill May Keep Terrorist Loophole Open

(Washington DC - November 2, 2001)

In letters and meetings with Members of Congress, FAIR has communicated our strong objections to a provision included in an appropriations bill to fund the Commerce, Justice and State (CJS) Departments that will tie the hands of immigration authorities trying to run background checks on illegal aliens seeking to have their status adjusted. H.R. 2500, the CJS Appropriations bill, would extend a provision known as Section 245(i) that allows illegal aliens to apply for adjustment to legal residence while remaining in U.S. rather than being required to return home and have their backgrounds investigated by consular officers in their home country.

While President Bush has only this week called for greater scrutiny of the intentions of foreign students entering the United States, his White House lobbying operation is pressing Congress to approve legislation that would ignore the backgrounds of tens of thousands of illegal aliens already residing in the United States. "The President's efforts to extend this deeply-flawed and dangerous provision make a mockery of his announcement on foreign students earlier this week." said Dan Stein, executive director of FAIR. "It's back to business as usual passing immigration loopholes that threaten national security."

Section 245(i) would extend a provision allowing illegal aliens to pay the INS $1000 and remain in the country, subject to only a cursory U.S. police record check, before receiving green cards. If Section 245(i) is not revived, these illegal aliens will instead be required to return to their country of origin where their application for an immigration visa would be subject to a far more vigorous home country background investigation.

As the terrorists' ringleader Mohammed Atta proved, an application for adjustment of status can be used to circumvent normal scrutiny of visa applicants. Atta used a pending change in status from a visitor's visa to a student visa to regain entry into the United States following trips abroad to confer with members of the al Qaeda terrorism network.

"It is staggering to think the President's advisors, in such a brazen fashion, would ask members of Congress to vote favorably on such a terrorist-friendly measure," commented Stein. "Avoiding a reward for hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens by denying them a preferential immigration benefit is reason enough to strip this provision from the CJS Appropriations bill. Rewarding law violators while placing our national security at risk is irresponsible."

-- K. (infosurf@yahoo.com), November 05, 2001.

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